News

Member Highlights – March 2018


BBOXX secures US$4 million debt finance from Togo bank for off-grid solar

UK-based off-grid solar company BBOXX has secured a pioneering package of US$4 million in debt financing from Togo-based bank Union Togolaise de Banque (UTB) to expand its services across the African country.

Touted as a first-of-its-kind finance deal with a local bank in Sub-Saharan Africa, the deal will see UTB provide capital in local currency to BBOXX for its solar activities. In addition, Africa Guarantee Fund, which assists financial institutions increasing their financing to African SMEs, has provided a 50% pro rata credit enhancement.

Last October, BBOXX also claimed a “first of its kind” trilateral financing deal for off-grid power in Rwanda. BBOXX has been deploying solar systems across Togo since December 2017, after winning a contract from the Togolese government to provide 300,000 of its solar systems for communities across the country by 2022, as part of the government’s ‘Cizo’ initiative.

As part of the Cizo scheme, which aims to bring electricity access to 2 million people by 2022, mobile payment solutions will also be brought to rural areas to complement the off-grid solar initiatives.

BBOXX aims to create more than 1,000 direct jobs in Togo in the next five years from its activities. BBOXX is already operational in Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria and Cameroon, having deployed 150,000 solar systems.


ECREEE launches Regional Certification Scheme 

The ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) has announced the launch of the Regional Certification Scheme (RCS), an initiative to increase sustainable energy skills to improve quality of solar PV Installations and to accelerate the deployment of solar PV in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

With the aim to accelerate the deployment of solar energy across the region, this initiative will create a regional certification scheme for installers and develop regional renewable energy standards. The priority in the first phase will be training installers for off-grid solar and 21 training institutions were already pre-selected from eight ECOWAS countries (Cape Verde, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone) to start collaborating in the pilot phase. In addition, ECREEE has formed a Technical Committee with representatives of the 15 ECOWAS member states to serve as an advisory group to the Regional Certification Body.

The German development agency (GIZ) will work in cooperation with ECREEE for the creation of renewable energy standards by conducting a survey of the existing national renewable energy product standards, analysing frameworks for their enforcement, selecting products for which regional standards will be developed, and ensuring that the draft regional standards are discussed with all member states.


Rafiki Power and Mobisol have partnered to pilot a new approach labelled the Hybrid Grid

Rafiki Power and Mobisol have partnered to pilot a new approach labelled the Hybrid Grid for off-grid clients in rural Tanzania. The Hybrid Grid is combining the best of mini-grids and solar home systems to bring higher value and better service to their mutual customers at lower cost. While Rafiki Power will continue to build mini-grid infrastructure, Mobisol will complement the offer and help reduce overall costs by equipping customers lying outside the core perimeter of the mini-grid with their large solar home systems. Both the mini-grid and the solar home system option deliver reliable, clean and affordable energy.

Jointly Mobisol and Rafiki Power will be in a position to give access to a wider range of appliances to more customers. This will also include the possibility to finance and monitor the appliances on a PAYG basis.

Mobisol with its efficient DC technology will enable the outlying customer’s access to so-called productive use appliances ranging from mobile phone chargers, barber shop equipment to village cinemas. Within travel distance these customers will also have access to larger productive use equipment run on Rafiki Powers AC Mini-grids that allow for economics of scale such as water pumps, mills, cold storage, carpenter shops utilizing electric drills and saws or welding shops.  Increased demand for new or larger appliances can flexibly be met by installed additional capacity. Beyond improving the value proposition for customers, the cooperation allows for synergy effects both in terms of logistics and of operations but most importantly allows for economic development in the entire region.

Mini-grid and solar home and business systems providers have long been considered as separate silos. Electrification strategies have tended to opt either for one or the other technology, giving the impression that they were mutually exclusive.


GAIA Impact Fund & Solaris Off-grid to conclude the first foreign direct credit facility of 500k€

Solaris Offgrid has been operating its wholly owned last mile operation in Tanzania since late 2015, steadily investing in its capacity to originate, manage, and support SHS installations built upon its proprietary hardware systems and Solaris PAYG platform.

Conventional credit loans to PAYG SHS companies involved in last-mile operations have been general business loans. Creditors extend a loan to a last-mile PAYG company to help expand its business, which includes originating, funding, and managing systems’ leases. The last-mile PAYG company then reports quarterly business performance and the underwriter tries to measure and reconcile the actual performance–lease health, credit scoring, social impact, repayment capacity–implicitly based upon summarized quarterly information. “The more we looked at how most commercial underwriting is still done for systems’ leases, we found that underwriters are not really satisfied with this kind of arrangement” says Craig Harris, CFO of Solaris Offgrid.

Solaris Offgrid and Gaia Impact Fund have partnered together to fund the creation of a custom portfolio of SHS leases using the Solaris PAYG platform to define credit underwriting criteria, project types, lease duration, and impact goals related to GOGLA KPI.

Gaia Impact Fund is able to monitor on a real-time basis that funds are being deployed in the manner expected to extend energy access, and Solaris Offgrid can ensure that the type and kind of risk that Gaia Impact Fund or any underwriter wishes to accept in a portfolio is defined, lowering risk and borrowing costs, and ensuring that credit capacity is deployed for maximum impact.


How Simpa Networks is creating impact by involving women in rural India

While big challenges remain [in closing the gender gap], many organizations are trying to make a difference through grassroots initiatives. Many industries have realized the potential of women as a resource, and incorporated them in their business models to unleash the dual benefit of business betterment and women empowerment. Micro-finance institutions (MFIs) are one such industry that has included women in their model and encouraged savings among communities. By uncapping the potential of Self Help Groups, MFIs captured a target group which displayed better repayment behavior, had more accountability and used resources for the betterment of entire family. This holds true across geographies and continents for any MFI.

Simpa Networks is one organization working with women to achieve its goal of making clean energy simple, affordable and accessible to everyone through its recently launched “Women in Power” project. Simpa offers solar home systems and financing to energy-poor households and shops, who are otherwise unable to afford clean energy due to lack of resources. The company has realized the potential women hold for achieving scale in its business. Women bring with them a better credit history due to their association with Self Help Groups, and can easily be provided with solar home systems on lease. Due to their engagement with other women in the community, they are an excellent resource for referral programs. Simpa encourages these women to become Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLE), who earn commission for every sale. Refreshingly there are more and more examples of how businesses are realizing involving women in business makes good business sense.

Going a step further, Simpa has also recruited women salespeople to its team, jobs which have been traditionally male-dominated in villages. These salespeople spend time meeting potential customers and travel on their motor-bikes to capture customers. Anjali Chaudhary, Simpa’s first female sales associate based in the Bhadrak district of the state of Odisha, first became a customer by purchasing a solar home system from the company. Seeing value in these systems, she then reached out to offer her services as a sales person, and now reaches out to other women in nearby areas by travelling on her “scooty”. This is however not the first job she has taken up where she has to interact with people and make a sales pitch. She was earlier involved in a small savings “chit fund” program where she recruited new members to be a part of the borrowing initiative.

It is through small changes like these that a larger impact is created. Simpa is aiming to reach more than 36,000 female customers per year, and train more than 5,000 women village level entrepreneurs. The trickle-down effect of this initiative is expected to be much larger, which might eventually bring about a change in the position of women in the communities as a whole, making them empowered with the capability and resources to make their own decisions. This is but a wave of greater change that is being brought about by enterprises like Simpa working towards achieving “Women in Power”.


New Practitioner Network members

Welcome to our new members who have recently joined us:

Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Development

d’Suon Energy

ExSol

Havenhill Synergy Limited

LED Safari

Office of Clean and Renewable Energy/Safety Advocate of Nigeria (CRESAN)

PACT Inc.

Permanent Steel Manufacturing Co.

POWERnSUN

SD Strategies

Thinking Tree Enterprises LLC